Buxton Drama League opens up the great archives of British social history with the latest production Telling Lives, which will also be the first play to be performed in the newly reopened Pump Room in Buxton.
Telling Lives, by Eric Northey, is a drama-fiction based upon the lives of the patients and staff who were at Prestwich Asylum on the eve of the First World War, researched from records of the asylum in the Lancashire county archives.
The play uses Brechtian techniques, with song, dance and actors doubling-up roles to break down the barriers between doctors and patients, the mad and the sane, actors and audience.
It also uses blown-up photographs and the testaments and words of patients, doctors, nurses and administrators as discovered in the archives.
Despite being set during a particular time in our history, Telling Lives raises questions about our current attitudes towards mental ill-health.
It follows the fortunes of young, idealistic Dr Perceval as he tries out his new methods to find a cure for madness through measurement.
Central to his task is Lily Handley, pictured above.
Eric said: “When she was 21 she had a baby out of wedlock and that sad fact sealed her fate. Her photo looks directly at the viewer, making real contact with us, in a kind of wistful appeal.’’
Director of Telling Lives is Terry Naylor,said: “I found Telling Lives a truly inspiring, challenging and stylistically unusual piece. It grips the audience from the start.”
And the play is so relevant: women still have their children taken from them and poverty drives mental illness everywhere.
“I am really excited to be working with such a talented cast from Buxton Drama League to bring this remarkable play to life at such a prestigious venue as the Pump Room, very fitting as the original asylums were built to very grand proportions indeed. Buxton had Wye House, erected by the Duke of Devonshire for the ‘incarceration of the middle and upper classes’.”
Telling Lives is on from July 4-7, at 7pm.
For tickets go to http://www.buxtonoperahouse.org.uk